Protesters march to police union to demand apologies for rhetoric

Fifty protesters marched several miles from the Gilmor Homes housing project in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore to the police union’s headquarters in Hampden on Wednesday night on behalf of Freddie Gray.

Standing in the street in front of a line of officers outside the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters, the group demanded apologies from the union for likening them to a “lynch mob” and calling for State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby to recuse herself from the case against six officers charged in Gray’s death.

President of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, Gene Ryan, said in a statement Thursday that the union remains committed to supporting its officers.

“While we respect the right to protest, we will not stand down in backing our members. It’s our job as a police union and we support the hardworking men and women of the Baltimore City Police force,” Ryan said.

Gray, 25, died last month after suffering severe spinal cord injuries while in police custody. Mosby has charged the six officers with violations ranging from false arrest to second-degree murder.

The demonstrators walked north on Pennsylvania Avenue, past the still-shuttered CVS at Penn North that was burned by rioters on the day of Gray’s funeral, along Fulton Avenue to Druid Park Lake Drive, en route to the police union headquarters on Buena Vista Avenue.

Cars honked as the group temporarily shut down streets, and a line of police officers stopped traffic and kept them from walking onto Interstate 83 lanes.

Lawrence Brown, 36, of Mount Vernon spoke of the lack of trust between the police and city residents.

Batts: Police having trouble policing West Baltimore
Batts: Police having trouble policing West Baltimore
“You can’t stop crime in a community when the community doesn’t trust police,” he said. “And the community can’t build trust in police when police are lawless.

“They need to stop using divisive rhetoric,” he added. “If you want to protect and serve us, come listen to us.”

J.C. Faulk, an activist who helped gather supplies to plant a garden at a mural near Gilmor Homes dedicated to Gray, read a letter he’d written during the unrest.

“It does not matter the eventual disposition of this particular case,” he said. “We know that people who are sworn to protect American citizens are indiscriminately murdering people or ignoring harm inflicted upon them.”

OutsideCity Hall, activist Rocky Twyman stood asking passers-by to pray and sign a petition asking for President Barack Obama to visit Baltimore.

“We think President Obama should come here and visit this great city,” Twyman said. “He must visit this riot-torn city. This is a critical situation. This thing could really spread if nothing is done.”

Updated: Military equipment in police hands
Updated: Military equipment in police hands
Twyman, 63, of Rockville planned the 1 p.m. vigil after holding a similar event outside the White House. Earlier, Twyman collected signatures to pray for an end to the violence in Ferguson, Mo.

Leo Pickett of Forestville held a large piece of poster board, folded in half, that read “Book of Prayers for Peace in Baltimore — Pray, Pray, Pray.”

By 1:30 p.m., they had about 10 signatures

“We’re only 40 miles away” from Obama, Twyman said. “He needs to make a statement. He should pray with these people.”

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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